From design to construction, marketing to product development, software is helping developers and construction companies push the envelope.
India plans to invest nearly $1 trillion in the next few years and several initiatives validate the serious intent of the government to build infrastructure at a scorching pace. High-speed rail, mass housing, six new major ports, power plants, steel plants, airports, metro-rail and mega highways spell a significant opportunity for technology majors. Such huge infra spends could potentially translate into an enhanced IT spend of nearly $200-250 million over the next few years, according to Harsh Pareek, Regional Sales Director (India & SAARC), Trimble Solutions.
Based on current usage trends, Pareek expects that artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, mixed reality and virtual reality will be adopted alongside 3D, 4D and 5D constructible BIM (building information modelling) processes. “Technology adoption in the construction space is still at a nascent stage,” he explains. “With a focus on timely project completion and efficient cost management for profitability goals, the construction industry will need to work towards ensuring the adoption of digital technologies like software and hardware for construction
“Investing in the right tools will help India build world-class infrastructure that is resilient and sustainable,” opines Sunil MK, Country Manager, Autodesk India & SAARC.
Design solutions: 2D vs. 3D
Computer-aided design (CAD) and BIM solutions are popular design technologies. CAD software is seen to be easier to use but limited in its visualisation functionality. The Marathon Group deploys AutoCAD to make working drawings in the execution phase, according to Mayur R Shah, Managing Director, Marathon Group. “We prefer AutoCAD over Revit (BIM software) for being user-friendly; it is far easier to make changes in AutoCAD than on Revit, so in that sense, CAD serves better in terms of both time and efficiency.”
However, visualisation with the aid of 3D software is vital for efficient construction. At Kalpataru, BIM, primarily through Revit and Navisworks software, is used extensively in the design stages of nearly all the firm’s projects, shares Anil Khurana, Head of Architecture & Design, Kalpataru. “Representing the 3D construction process on a 3D platform, instead of on a 2D CAD platform, ensures accurate ‘as is’ visualisation of the proposed built environment. At Kalpataru, this has eliminated the need for project teams to solve complex engineering issues as they emerge on site. Further, complete visualisation and information leave limited room for personalised interpretation by site teams, improving accurate coordination and cost control.” For example, when the piping systems of a building at a transfer floor level are to be rerouted, each pipe is modelled and checked against the elements of the structure and the mechanical ventilation system so that clashes are detected and resolved. BIM also enables outcomes of decisions to be predicted (in terms of quantities and costs) and analysed; hence, better decisions are taken, adds Khurana.
In Guwahati, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) took the call for Revit to be used by architectural firm Design Forum International (DFI) and global infrastructure giant AECOM for the design of the New Integrated Terminal Building of the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport. “Autodesk Revit helped enhance the project teams of DFI and AECOM to collaborate over design, fabrication, construction, operations and maintenance. As Revit harnesses cloud technology, team members at multiple sites could co-author Revit models,” explains Sunil.
Recently, Autodesk announced the expansion of Autodesk BIM 360, its fastest-growing cloud solution, a unified platform connecting project teams and data in real time from design through construction. “Now, Autodesk BIM 360 also includes Autodesk Civil 3D, to offer one of the most comprehensive anytime, anywhere, collaboration-facilitating solutions for complex projects with horizontal and vertical structures,” says Sunil.
To give project teams an intuitive, 3D view of the project from the start, and to create 3D diagrams for complex jobs like custom formwork or custom furniture, the Marathon Group uses SketchUp in the design phase. “Discussions and iterations happen within SketchUp,” says Shah. “Areas and volumes are easy to calculate using SketchUp; this helps in the procurement of materials.”
In terms of the sheer numbers of users, Trimble counts SketchUp, its popular conceptual 3D design software, as a hugely successful solution and this tool is used extensively by construction and architectural firms as well as in interior design, according to Paul Wallett, Regional Director, Trimble Solutions-India and Middle East.
The Marathon Group also uses Max and VRay to design the façade and interiors. “Detailed renders help finalise the volume, form and façade of the building, which is helpful for marketing,” explains Shah. “High-quality renders help finalise the interior design and facilitate ordering. Photoreal renders of the furniture serve as a reference for carpenters
A good design must be structurally evaluated and, here, Dr GVR Raju, Senior Vice President, AECOM, points out the value of MIDAS engineering software.
In India, AECOM has used MIDAS for the Hyderabad Metro-rail project, a nearly 66-km stretch consisting of three corridors, 60 stations and two depots. AECOM is providing engineering, design review, systems integration, monitoring services, testing and commissioning for the project, and has been incorporating innovative technologies at various stages of the project, including several firsts in India such as communication-based train control technology in signalling, Internet protocol (IP) based technology, facilitating the easy expansion of bandwidth, and IP-based telephone and terrestrial trunked radio technology systems.
“MIDAS helped implement the ‘spine and wing’ concept for the station’s structural design, which, in turn, reduced the footprint on the ground by 50 per cent and expedited construction,” explains Dr Raju.
The popular design solution BIM has its uses in facilitating construction on site. For instance, Tekla Structures, Trimble’s flagship popular BIM solution, allows construction firms to use the benefits of constructability. Constructability implies ensuring in advance that a building or structure can be built efficiently, with information-rich, as-built models, before starting the actual work, using or wasting real materials. As-built models minimise costly surprises and RFIs (requests for information) and open the way for more profitable projects. Tekla Structures has been deployed in India by steel fabricators, precast companies, contractors and engineering companies, according to Wallett.
Pareek elucidated the role of Tekla Structures in an L&T-S&L project involving the detailed design and preparation of foundation general arrangement drawings as well as the bar bending schedule (BBS) of the steam turbine generator foundation of a combined cycle power plant. In this complex project, Tekla resolved the complexities attached with the foundation geometry, the size of concrete elements and the amount of reinforcement to be placed. It automated the generation of the BBS layout drawing as well as table with bar type, length and its shape. Tekla additionally generated the rebar detailing section at required locations. The visual interface improved the placement of multiple bars of complex shapes.
Jignesh V Chokshi, Senior Deputy General Manager, Engineering, L&T-S&L, estimates that the company achieved nearly 35 per cent reduction in this effort over the manual preparation of foundation general arrangement drawings and preparation of bar schedules. Tekla also helped complete the project three to four weeks ahead of schedule. L&T-S&L gave full credit to the constructible BIM for the project’s success, according to Pareek.
Budgeting and monitoring
When 3D models are ready, solutions such as Construction Computer Software’s (CCS) Candy can help estimate the quantity take-offs (BOQ) from those and prepare budgets. CCS’s BuildSmart also helps track costs across the engineering and construction process in real time, thus facilitating accurate decision-making covering labour, plant and equipment, materials and subcontractors. “Being designed by contractors ensures that Candy and BuildSmart have modules suited to specialised areas such as subcontract management,” says Alex Mathew, Director, Sales & Marketing, CCS India.
In fact, latest development releases from CCS integrate the subcontractors’ Candy operational information, BOQ, to the BuildSmart subcontractor procurement works order, certificate and payment process, allowing the full sharing of information between operations and finance. “Sands Infra, which is currently building the largest IT Park in South India, is using the CCS subcontract manager module for accurate costing and to gain holistic control over complex projects, a step up from relying on spreadsheets, which is challenging and not always completely accurate,” says Mathew.
The Marathon Group combines ERP and waste control on site to control costs. “Only the right quantities of the best-quality materials are ordered and sent to sites, where individual project managers optimise usage,” says Shah.
“Kalpataru uses SAP for procurement budgeting and controls,” shares Khurana. “Inventory dashboards in Qlik help control inventory ageing, amount and excess stock transfers. A quality management application helps monitor site activities, while dashboards enable checks on key performance indicators.”
Checks are vital indeed!
Manage Multiple Sites
New features in Astral Technologies’ Construction ERP are aimed at streamlining site-level activities, vital for companies managing multiple sites. For instance, “GPS-based attendance tracking helps construction companies track the headcount on multiple sites on a real-time basis,” says Deepen Goratela, Founder, Astral Technologies. “Incorporating this feature in a mobile app makes it handy for those on site. They check in on arrival and check out at the end of their shift.”
Managing multiple sites was a key challenge for ACE Project Management Consultant. The company needed a solution to draw up estimates, plan the use of resources, analyse budgets, schedule work and generate daily progress reports to track the live status of projects.
Astral’s solution made all this possible and compared the planned and actual progress of projects. Currently, ACE Project Management Consultant is managing 15 sites across India. With Astral’s solution, it stays connected to each site and to its customers in terms of approvals.
Digital Technologies that Powered the Statue of Unity Construction in Record Speed
S Anantha Sayana, Chief Digital Officer, L&T, believes the suite of digital technologies deployed for the Statue of Unity (SoU), the world’s tallest at 182 m, played a critical role in constructing it in a record 33 months. A look at what was deployed:
- Surveying technologies: Geospatial technologies (GPS/DGNSS/GNSS, drone-based photogrammetry, remote-sensing satellites and Terrestrial LiDAR (light detection and ranging)) performed more accurate, faster and economic surveys of the riverbed to ascertain the quantity of landfill required that had a critical bearing on the foundation of the statue, which would have been extremely difficult with conventional surveying methods. These facilitated wind tunnel and hydrodynamic model effect studies, the estimation of catchment areas and assess runoff flow directions to build a sustainable stormwater drainage system.
- Visualisation solutions: 4D BIM was extensively used to remove all geometric interferences of elements before going on site. Virtual reality helped analyse and resolve clashes within various sectors, prepare accurate, error-free drawings for speedy execution, and train workmen to give them a real-life feel of the work environment.
- Tracking solutions: Radio-frequency identification (RFID)-tagging the 6,850 bronze panels cladding the outer structure helped track their movement from the casting yard to the manufacturing yard for assembly and at the project site. RFID also helped sequence the erection of these panels for the exact, speedy placement of each panel.
- Mobile monitoring apps: A project monitoring app connected all the stakeholders. Everyone had access to daily project reports on visually attractive and informative dashboards. A safety app ensured zero incidents despite men working at dangerous heights and having to confront wind blasts along the river. Another app tracked quality while a dashboard collated critical data feeds from several digitally hooked up plant and machinery assets for constant monitoring to increase productivity and help predict trends.
Track Sales and Run a Targeted Campaign
Developers are effectively using software for marketing and to track sales. “Salesforce helps us analyse what kind of inventory (configuration) is working well, and in which particular micro market,” shares Mayur R Shah, Managing Director, Marathon Group. “This helps us plan offers and campaigns and improve on the plan of future products. Customer information and feedback analysis allow us to tailor precise communication to the right audience.”
Kalpataru uses a customised inventory management module in Salesforce.com (SFDC), to track inventory, quotation and booking status by project and tower, in real time. “The module was designed internally to suit processes, policies and RERA guidelines,” shares Anil Khurana, Head of Architecture & Design, Kalpataru.
- Charu Bahri
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